The spectacularly sun-kissed San Diego is blessed with what can only be known as the finest weather in America. Surf, sun, and the sea rule the roost in this formerly staid city, which is now also famous as one of the greatest LGBTQ playgrounds in the West. A bevy of cultural attractions and sunny beaches make the city an alluring destination for LGBTQ travelers. To this end, there is a wealth of gay hotels in San Diego to cater to the sizeable LGBTQ traveling population which descends on the city every year. Although inclusivity is woven into the fabric of the city, the heart of San Diego’s gay life is the bustling Hillcrest, which has been around since the 1910s.
San Diego’s gay-friendliness goes a long way back. In 1969, a priest established the ministry for gay and lesbian Catholics. The city is also home to the Lambda Archives, one of the largest and best-maintained LGBT history collections in the country. There’s also the Diversionary Theatre, which is the third-oldest LGBTQ theatre in the country. And since San Diego is famous for its array of outdoor activities, it’s but natural for organizations to be gearing activities for the LGBTQ set as well. All these make San Diego one of the most gay-friendly cities in the world.
Exploring San Diego will take more than a few days. So, check out the top 11 gay-friendly hotels in San Diego to make your stay in this lovely city comfortable.
Inn at the Park
LGBTQ travelers to San Diego who want to dig into the gay scene as well as explore the fabulous city will find the mid-range Inn at the Park ideal. The gay-friendly, all-suite hotel lies right next to the San Diego Zoo and Balboa Park. Also, it is right down the street from San Diego’s best gay bars like Loft and Brass Rail, making it one of the best gay hotels in Hillcrest.
Discerning travelers will appreciate the hotel which is housed in a stately, 1926-dated brick building. A boutique lobby in silver, black, and white with diamond-patterned marble floors greets you on arrival. Graceful archways, large white marble pedestals, and a crystal chandelier make for a refined yet relaxed setting. The hotel’s elevator is said to be the second-oldest in San Diego. As a self-catering hotel, the Inn doesn’t feature a restaurant or bar. However, it does have a striking rooftop terrace, which is perfect for sipping a drink while watching the sunset. There’s also a well-equipped rooftop fitness center with lovely views that make working out worth it. What’s more, there’s even free water and coffee available in the lobby.
Rooms at The Inn at the Park include spacious studios and suites, all of which have sleeper sofas and well-equipped kitchens. Some even boast of balconies with jaw-dropping views of the verdant Balboa Park, which is one of the top-rated tourist attractions in the United States. Rooms are chic, done up in creamy-white motifs with geometric splashes of lilac and mauve. White lacquer furniture, spacious closets, and curvaceous padded headboards make staying here extremely comfortable.
If you’re a gay couple looking for a sexy getaway in San Diego, there can’t be a better place to stay than at the gay-friendly Hotel Andaz. The chic design hotel is one of the most stylish hotels in San Diego’s extremely popular Gaslamp Quarter.
A bright and airy modern lobby with free snacks is what greets travelers and sets the Andaz apart from other hotels in its category. A modern fitness center is incredibly appealing to all gym rats, especially since the hotel attracts a young crowd. The indisputably hip Andaz also boasts of a gorgeous rooftop lounge and sexy wine bar, which are a very popular meeting spot in the city. The rooftop pool is another standout feature, with lounge beds perfect for tanning and people-watching.
However, it’s the rooms at Andaz that are its sexiest aspects. All rooms have intimacy kits with lovers mints, condoms, feather ticklers, and lubricants on the offer. Rooms are spacious and feature a host of mod-cons, pops of graphic art on the walls, and a plush, sexy vibe. If you’re looking to up the steamy quotient, the Andaz Star Suite with erotic photos and a group-friendly rainfall shower should do the trick.
Notwithstanding the kind of holiday you’re here for, the historic Gaslamp Quarter where the hotel lies is too irresistible to not be explored. We’d highly recommend this 2.5-hour immersive walking tour of the Gaslamp Quarter, a once-upon-a-time bawdy neighborhood. You’ll even have a chance to dig into San Diego’s delish cuisine, coupled with some great alcohol as well.
The Westgate Hotel
A 1970s highrise exterior is a façade for Versailles-like opulence at the gay-friendly Westgate Hotel. Located at the edge of the Gaslamp Quarter, the hotel is old-world luxury coming to the heart of San Diego.
The grand foyer of the Westgate is reminiscent of an anteroom at the Palace of Versailles. Baccarat crystal chandeliers scatter light in all directions, even as traditional tapestries and exquisite antiques are peppered across the room. A gorgeous old grand piano stands in the corner, making you feel like you’ve almost entered another world. The spacious rooms are equally ritzy and feature plush beds, wool carpets, and traditional European furnishings. While those on the lower floors feature Downtown views, the ones above them boast of views extending to as far as Balboa Park and San Diego Bay. The modern additions to the hotel are the sprawling AquaVie Social + Wellness Club, which has a spa, fitness center, and an Olympic-sized rooftop pool. Before stepping out to explore San Diego, do have a classic cocktail at the Plaza piano bar.
Westgate is within walking distance of some of San Diego’s best attractions, including the Gaslamp Quarter, Balboa Park, and the Seaport Village. Plus, the trolley stop nearby means that one can reach Old Town easily as well.
Hillcrest House B&B
Dive headfirst into the vibrant gay scene of San Diego at the gay-friendly Hillcrest House B&B, one of the best gay hotels in Hillcrest. Fabulous gay bars like Martini’s and Number One are just down the street, as is Club San Diego, the city’s only gay sauna.
The charming Hillcrest House has been voted one of the world’s best B&Bs, and it’s easy to see why. The 1915-built house possesses craftsman character and charm, while rooms feature elegant decor inspired by famous attractions of the city. Also, the rooms here are modern, with some even adding Jacuzzi tubs and kitchenettes. A beautiful sun-kissed porch and the sitting area with a fireplace is great for enjoying a cuppa.
The B&B has a whole lot of freebies as well, ranging from a Southern Californian ‘heart-healthy’ buffet breakfast to all-day snacks and drinks. Plus, the staff is equipped with amazing local recommendations, all of which are easily walkable.
The gay-friendly Hotel Palomar from the style-central Kimpton brand is a chic take on archetypal Southern California style. A sexy, dramatic lobby with moody color palettes, eclectic light features, and plush furniture swathed in lustrous leather and velvet upholstery make for a striking first impression. The lovely fourth-floor pool with chaise lounges is perfect for soaking up the Californian sun. In fact, summers see lots of DJ pool parties take place. By evenings, the pool deck and lounge become quite the scene. In typical San Diego fashion, the hotel’s Mexican restaurant Curadero has a late-night taco window open till 1 am. Finally, work off all those Californian cuisine calories in the fitness center.
Rooms and suites boast of hardwood floors, blue-and-cream accents, and floor-to-ceiling cream tufted headboards. Big spenders can seek the spacious suites or the ultra-glam Skyline pads. These boast of patios as well as floor-to-ceiling windows with indescribably beautiful views of the city and the ocean beyond.
Palomar’s location in the Gaslamp Quarter puts it just south of Balboa Park and a 10-minute drive to Hillcrest. The charming harbor and waterfront are a 20-minute walk.
Lafayette Hotel, Swim Club & Bungalows
For those of the LGBTQ set who simply love everything Hollywood, they should look no further than the Lafayette Hotel. Located in the University Heights, the gay-friendly Lafayette Hotel is an important part of the city’s heritage. The hotel was a hotspot for the whos-who of Hollywood throughout the 40s and 50s. In fact, the hotel was even used as a set for the Hollywood movie ‘Top Gun.’ In fact, the hotel is even listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The hotel oozes old-world charm with its colonial-style white-columned and red brick. The interiors are pure Hollywood glamour in the form of chandeliers and parasols, rich tapestries, a baby grand piano, and a spectacular black-and-white mural of Tinseltown. Most guests, including tons of locals, tend to congregate at the Olympic-sized swimming pool for partying, sunbathing, and swimming. There are regular events including ‘dive-in’ summer movie nights, DJ parties, and live music. A lifesize chessboard makes off the lobby makes for a quirky addition. Get your fill of laughs at the on-site comedy club, the Finest City Improv, along with a full bar.
Rooms at the Lafayette are modern and named after famous film persons. Guests can choose between budget-friendly poolside rooms and suites, the Manor Rooms in the main building, and the glamourous two-story private bungalows. While each of them is uniquely decorated, most feature French doors opening onto patios overlooking the pool.
San Diego’s sights aren’t too far from Lafayette either. Hillcrest is a 15-minute bus ride, while a shortcut through Balboa Park gets travelers to the Gaslamp Quarter in less than half-an-hour.
There’s no point in coming to California and not staying near its fabulous beaches, So, for those LGBTQ travelers who are water babies, the location of gay-friendly Tower23 is hard to beat. Located right on the beach near the Crystal Pier, the Pacific Ocean is the mainstay at this gorgeous property.
Ocean views from almost all rooms, glass accents, white decor, and vivid pops of blue make Tower23 one of the most popular beach getaway gay hotels in San Diego. The hotel’s public spaces are popular with locals as well, especially the sustainable JRDN restaurant with striking ocean views. The outdoor deck with fire pits and lounges facing the ocean is the ultimate relaxation and people-watching spot. Beautifully chic and swanky rooms feature shades of ocean-blue, walnut furnishings, and white walls. The suites even have balconies or patios with million-dollar views of the high seas. And even though it doesn’t offer a spa or pool, there are in-room spa and massages and the beach is right in Tower23’s backyard.
Tower 23 is a 15-20-minute drive from Hillcrest and the Gaslamp Quarter. However, the hotel lies in a popular beachy neighborhood with lots of cool bars and restaurants as well as a busy boardwalk. What’s more, Tower23 even offers free bikes for those wanting to bike along the beach path.
ITH CoLive Balboa Park
A blend of comfy beds, cool events, amazing facilities and freebies, and low prices are what make the gay-friendly ITH CoLive Balboa Park so great to stay at. Featuring a quirky zoo theme, the hostel lies right down the street from Balboa Park. It’s also a stone’s throw from Hillcrest’s amazing gay bars. In fact, with Balboa Park so close by, we recommend that you explore it this fun-filled, 2-hour segway tour. What’s more, the tour will take you to the landmarks and historical sites of Downtown San Diego too.
Travelers have the choice of dorms and private rooms. Social butterflies will adore ITH CoLive for the array of socials and activities they offer by day and by night. These include everything from movie and art nights and pub and breweries crawls to beach visits and free sailing tours. A welcoming lounge with a pool table, TV, iPads, games, and comfy seats is a great way to get to know your fellow mates. The shared kitchen is great for showing off your cooking skills to the cute bunkmate you just met. Plus, there’s even free pizza and breakfast, so what more could you ask for.
The Sofia Hotel
There are few hotels in San Diego that are as well-connected as the gay-friendly Sofia Hotel is. Nestled on the edge of the Gaslamp Quarter, the hotel is walking distance to the harbor, Little Italy, and sights like Maritime Museum, USS Midway Museum, and the Museum of Modern Art. Hillcrest is a 10-minute drive. What’s more, the historic Old Town is merely a 15-minute train ride. So, LGBTQ travelers looking to explore San Diego all on their own will love the location of the Sofia Hotel.
Housed in a historic 1926 gothic-revival building, the Sofia radiates classic charm with its circular chandeliers and high ceilings. The decor has a distinct 1920s panache with floor-to-ceiling silver bead separators and transparent curtains. Oversized light fixtures, velvet-upholstered armchairs in shimmery purples and grays, and wallpaper add to the hotel’s historic charm. Rooms, even the entry-level ones, are luxurious, to say the least. They emanate a soothing vibe with their large-paned windows, comfy beds, dark-wood furniture, and soft neutral hues. If you’re looking to splurge, the VIP Suites upscale touches, seating areas, and jetted tubs.
The hotel does great on amenities too. Sofia Spa is a fantastic place to get in some relaxation time, especially if you’re with your partner. Those who want to stay in shape even on their holiday will find the 24-hour gym perfect.
San Diego Marriott Gaslamp Quarter
LGBTQ travelers looking for an urban-chic hotel in the heart of the Gaslamp Quarter will love the gay-friendly San Diego Marriott. The hotel’s prime location is its biggest selling point and is a perfect base for exploring all that San Diego has to offer. In fact, right down the street from the San Diego Marriott is the pickup for this wonderful 7-hour highlights tour of the city. These include not just the city center sights but also La Jolla, the seaside jewel in San Diego’s crown.
The vibrant lobby at the San Deigo Marriott makes for a great first impression. Elaborate floral arrangements are peppered everywhere and there’s an expansive and baroque light fixture spanning the length of the foyer. A grid-like wall unit with bold backlit curios and trinkets sit behind whimsical, multi-hued chairs. Gym rats will love the well-equipped fitness center. However, most of the attention will be garnered by the aptly-named Altitude Sky lounge. Perched on the 22nd floor of the hotel, the lounge ticks all the right boxes. Great seating with a large fire pit? Check. Delish cocktails? Check. Panoramic views of the city? Check.
Albeit slightly smaller in size, the well-appointed rooms at the Marriott are extremely comfortable. The decor is contemporary with neutral hues, pops of warm patterns, and colors, and honey-tone wood furnishings. If it’s available, upgrade to a higher floor from where the views are to kill for.
Porto Vista Hotel
In the heart of one of San Diego’s best neighborhoods, Little Italy, sits the contemporary and gay-friendly Porto Vista Hotel. The hotel makes for a solid choice if you’ve come primarily to explore San Diego and are relying on public transport to get you around. The pedestrian-friendly Little Italy area is extremely walkable, and there’s a trolley station five minutes away from the hotel. What’s more, the hotel even offers a free shuttle to and from the airport. If one is looking to party at San Diego’s fabulous gay bars, the Hillcrest neighborhood is a five-minute cab ride.
Rooms at Porto Vista are a mixed bag; some are den-like, while others have larger windows and patios with nice views. The decor is hip, with floor-to-ceiling wall murals of the Italian life. However basic its accommodations, Porto Vista doesn’t scrimp on amenities. There’s a small gym for the use of guests, and the hotel even offers rooftop yoga classes. The rooftop plunge spa is probably the best place in the city to soak your troubles away. However, its the top-floor, patio bar with bay views that takes the cake. The patio is a great place to dine and sip on handcrafted cocktails while watching the sun go down in the water. What’s more, they even have a Top of the Bay LGBT happy hour on Fridays.
Just So You Know:
- San Diego’s first gay bars didn’t appear in Hillcrest. Rather, they set up shop in downtown areas like the Gaslamp Quarter for serving travelers and sailors.
- It was the Brass Rail, which is San Diego’s longest-running and most well-known gay bar, which brought about refinement to gay hangouts in the city.
Get Some Culture in San Diego:
- San Diego Pride: The legendary three-day San Diego Pride festival is the city’s largest civic event. Apart from the 200+ floats and entries, it has more than 200,000 people watching the parade. With important people having walked in the Pride parade in the past, San Diego Pride goes from strength to strength every year.
Best Gay Bars / Clubs in San Diego:
- Cheers: This cozy, laid-back gay bar is great for a friendly night out with new friends.
- The Loft: This older-men-central bar has tasty cocktails, great jukebox tunes, and a pool table.
- Flicks: A cozy gay video bar hosting much fun themed nights.
- Martinis Above Fourth: This San Diego’s favorite gay cabaret bar with some great talent showcasing themselves.
- Number One, Fifth Avenue: This all-around neighborhood gay bar is a go-to place for its friendly ambiance.
- Pecs: A bear bar with a happy hour that is long and much appreciated.
- Eagle Bar: A leather-fetish gay cruising club with the preferred attire being military, uniforms, and leather.
- Gossip Grill: This lesbian venue plays all kinds of music, burlesque shoes, and fun karaoke evenings.
- The Brass Rail: San Diego’s longest-running gay bar with drag shows and other fun parties every day of the week.
Best Gay Saunas in San Diego:
- Club San Diego: Popular 24/7 gay sauna with video showrooms, hot tub, steam bath, dry sauna, showers, and a bar. Guests are provided free condoms at the reception and can buy other accessories as well.